Atlanta is anticipating the arrival of the Alabama and Georgia football teams on Saturday for the annual SEC Championship Game; the winner likely moves on to face undefeated Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship. The loser could be out of the BCS Bowl picture with Florida expected to play in the Sugar Bowl, a scenario that Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban finds unfair.
The last meeting between Alabama and Georgia was a regular season game in 2008 where the Crimson Tide beat the Bulldogs 41-30 and finished 4th in the BCS.
Both teams finished their seasons 11-1, each with one loss to an SEC team. Alabama was defeated 29-24 in Bryant-Denny Stadium by Texas A&M, but the loss didn’t threaten their chances at the SEC West. Georgia was defeated midway through the season by South Carolina. However, after upsetting Florida in Jacksonville, Georgia regained their spot in line for the top of the SEC East.
The Dawgs’ defense has been very strong while giving up 17.7 points per game. Georgia’s outside linebacker Jarvis Jones has made a huge impact on their defense this season registering 45 solo tackles, 10.5 sacks, one interception, six forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Jones is a weapon that has showed his ability to pick apart offenses, something Nick Saban is preparing for.
Also dominant on Georgia’s defense is senior linebacker Christian Robinson who has put up 44 total tackles this year. Robinson played in the SEC Championship game last year where they lost to LSU 42-10. In the first half of that game, Georgia’s defense played possibly the best defense they played all year, but in the second half, the Tigers came alive putting 35 more points on the board and bringing Georgia to a defeat. Robinson remembers the feeling too well but is more confident this year.
Offensively, the Bulldogs have averaged 38 points per game. Georgia’s quarterback Aaron Murray has the highest quarterback rating in the BCS this year. Murray has 3,201 total yards, 30 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Georgia’s leading rusher is true freshman Todd Gurley with 1,138 yards and 14 touchdowns. Gurley has more yards than any true freshmen in Bulldog history except Herschel Walker.
However, Georgia may have a tough time with Alabama’s D. It has been dominant, allowing an average of only 9.3 points per game, 77 rushing yards per game, and 156.7 receiving yards per game. It leads the SEC in pass defense giving up only six touchdown passes all season and it has allowed only seven rushing touchdowns.
It’s not all defense in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide’s offense averaged 39 points per game, 214 rushing yards per game, and 218 passing yards per game this season. Quarterback AJ McCarron has 2,507 total yards, 25 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. He plays behind an exceptional offensive line led by senior center Barrett Jones. Their top rusher Eddie Lacy racked up 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns. Lacy says he’s with the best offensive line he’s ever run with.
A new addition to this Alabama offense is freshman wide receiver Chris Black who has been redshirted all year due to a shoulder injury back in August. Nick Saban announced on Wednesday that Black will likely make his college debut in the Georgia Dome on Saturday. The decision may be due to the lack of depth after junior wide receiver Kenny Bell suffered a broken leg in their blowout win over Auburn last week. Saban says Black will help the Tide by playing in Saturday’s game.
ESPN Radio 850/900 will have live coverage Saturday starting at 3:30pm.